Wordplay is a blog project featuring posts from students enrolled in ENG 320 Grammar and Linguistics (Fall 2019)

Learning is Ruff: Bad habits Boot camp

by Ashley Fattig

Thinking back on the basics of language, and comparing the past learning strategies of others, has me thinking of breaking bad habits–similar to those bad habits that occur when puppy training. Similar to bringing home a new puppy, small bad habits over time, turn into big bad habits over time. Coincidentally, I have two new puppies at home. While I focus my attention on breaking their bad habits at home, I can simultaneously work on breaking my bad writing habits as well.

(Photo by Ashley Fattig)

Meet Snow. Snow is as cute as a button, but Snow lacks some fundamental basic common courtesies as a roommate. These courtesies consist of: Respecting bedtime hours, valuing the property of others, and proper bathroom etiquette. Don’t be like Snow.

According to the article: “7 Bad Writing Habits You Learned in School,” the number one habit in student writing is:

  1. Trying to sound like dead people

“Sure, Chaucer and Thomas More and Shakespeare were the stud muffins of their day, but you don’t see them on the New York Times Bestseller List now.” (Morrow)

-Now if I had written Snow’s introduction in a more original manner I would have said: Meet Snow. Snow is as cute as a button, but she takes some getting used to. In her spare time Snow’s hobbies include howling at the moon, chewing my favorite pairs of shoes, and peeing on the rug. Don’t be like Snow.

Luckily, with some practice and guidelines, bad habits like these can be broken. Snow is now on a strict doggie schedule. With set bathroom times to avoid peeing on the rugs, she’ll be in tip-top shape in no time! Accountability for one another can be an asset to help from falling into old patterns. If you find yourself slipping into old habits it can often be helpful to have a friend, or peer read your work for critique. If they don’t think the voice sounds like you, maybe you should rethink the diction.

(Photo by Ashley Fattig)

Meet Zero. Zero loves to dig. Sometimes when Mom and Dad turn there back Zero likes to dig his way under the fence, and run away from home. With Zero on the lose, we run around like chickens with our heads cut off. This makes for a very unproductive day. Don’t be like  Zero.

According to the article: “30 of the Most Common Grammatical Errors We All Need to Stop Making,” the number one error made by students is:

  1. They’re vs. Their vs. There

If this is a grammatical error that you find yourself struggling with here is a little graphic to help you remember!

    • Their- a possessive pronoun: Ex. “their car is blue” The car is belonging to the person being discussed.
    • There- used as an adjective, or adverb: Ex. “Zero ran over there” Typically, this form is referring to location, and occasionally location in an abstract sense, such as, “Whoop there it is”
    • They’re- a contraction of the two words “they” and “are”: Ex. “They’re going to be late to the movies”
(Photo by Ashley Fattig)

The same article also lists the number nineteenth error as:

  1. Lose vs. Loose

Read it out loud. If it sounds funky, it probably is.

-Be careful, or you’ll lose your dog, like me.                 

-My naughty dog is on the loose!

And according to an article from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:

The Problem with Clichés—“they are general statements that do not add any detailed evidence or unique support to a piece of writing, whether that writing is a personal statement or an academic essay.”

There is a degree of grey area for this matter, simply because it all depends on the type of writing that you are pursuing. For instance, a college essay is more formal in structure; however, with blog type assignments you can play around more with language to incorporate personality, or to add to the voice of the piece.


Every dog has his day.

Birds of a Feather flock together.

                 With a few new learned tricks, you too can be the goodest of boys!!

(Photo by Ashley Fattig)


Morrow, Jonathan MorrowJon, et al. “7 Bad Writing Habits You Learned in School.” Copyblogger, 12 Oct. 2016, www.copyblogger.com/bad-writing-habits/

Zantal-Wiener, Amanda. “30 Of the Most Common Grammatical Errors We All Need to Stop Making.” HubSpot Blog, blog.hubspot.com/marketing/common-grammar-mistakes-list.

“Clichés.” The Writing Center, writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/cliches/.

Ashley Fattig is a senior at CSC. She is originally from Alliance, NE, but chose CSC because of the affordability and distance from home. She currently studies General Business with a minor in writing, and works at First National Bank of North Platte and would like to pursue mortgage banking after graduation.


3 thoughts on “Wordplay Blog: Learning is “Ruff”

  1. Ashley,

    I love your tie in with your pups! First off, they are way too cute! Even though language can be learned almost innately with humans, we still must refine our skills to develop those good, formal, and proper habits like dogs do when they go though dog training. Dogs learn a lot innately as well, but can not function as properly in society when they are not trained properly (i.e. how to walk on a leash or not to jump on people). Both dogs and humans can function without doggie training or using proper grammar or form, but is often times not proper or socially adequate. For example, if a dog jumped on a person in public that is not typically okay by many in a social setting. The same goes with humans. If a person uses the wrong form of “there” in their writing, it is often seen as an inappropriate or “bad” thing. Bad dog, bad human. This is why both humans and dogs refine their skills and get trained. Thankfully, our bad habits can be broken and you really can teach an old dog new tricks! I really like your metaphor. You are a really creative writer and I enjoyed reading your blog!


  2. Ashley,
    I absolutely love your correlation with dogs and humans learning grammar rules. This was a great read! Also, what cute doggies!! Like pups, humans also require time and practice when learning something new. Learning new rules also require to learn when these rules may vary. This blog post may help others also understand the similarities.
    Great points!


  3. Ashley,
    I love that you related grammar to your dogs! That was great idea! I have been told a lot of times that English is one of the hardest languages to learn because of all of our crazy rules that only happen sometimes. I also like the tip in here about peer editing. I think this is a good thing to do in a classroom setting. Having students edit each others papers helps them see mistakes others are making, as well as helping their peers writing abilities. Great blog!


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